What you need to help you learn Welsh

How many psychiatrists does it take to change a lightbulb? Only one, but the light bulb’s really got to want to change. The main thing you need in order to learn a language is, of course, yourself. You need to want to learn, so that you put in a reasonable amount of time in fairly regular sessions. All the books and tapes and websites in the world can’t do the job for you. If you lose interest and it becomes a chore, perhaps the best thing is to give it a rest and come back later if you still feel like it. But good materials can certainly help you learn more pleasantly and efficiently, and also keep your interest alive. The purpose of this site is to help you get hold of them, and get the best out of them.

Welsh learners come in all shapes and sizes, of course: you may enjoy the communal, even competitive, atmosphere of the class, along with the regular rhythm that imposes, or you may prefer to learn by yourself from books and tapes or in front of your computer or radio or television. Don’t forget to check out local classes in your area, even if you’re the other side of the Atlantic. But whether in the form of classes, books and/or tapes, summer school, or online distance learning, you almost certainly need some sort of COURSE. I recommend: Colloquial Welsh (book with optional tapes), Mark Nodine’s online course (suitable for beginners) and the Lampeter interactive online course (which will take you all the way to degree level if you want). If what you’re looking for is more a quick taster than a serious course, try Welsh for Beginners (with cheerful cartoon illustrations), or Speak Welsh (more traditional in style, with sober black and white illustrations), or Heini Gruffudd’s Beginner’s Welsh (rather larger and more expensive at £7.99 but includes lots of general cultural information about Wales too). For background reading about the language and its history, you can’t do better than Janet Davies’ book The Welsh Language.

You also need a DICTIONARY. Definitely. Opinions vary about how much you should use the dictionary but I believe it’s best to use it freely, not just as a last resort. Browse through it, even. The more you use it, the more you will become aware of what it can do and how to get the best from it. The best Welsh–English English–Welsh dictionary by far is the new Pocket Modern Welsh Dictionary from Oxford University Press. If you also want something small and cheap to carry around in your pocket or handbag, which is not a bad idea, I recommend: The Welsh Learner’s Dictionary; the text is not as good as the Oxford but it’s much better than all the others. Geiriadur Gomer i’r Ifanc is a good monolingual dictionary (Welsh–Welsh, with English synonyms and an English index). If you’re really keen, you may well be tempted by the big Welsh Academy Dictionary (English–Welsh only) – and why not, as long as you know what you’re getting for your 40.

What about a GRAMMAR? Perhaps not essential in the early stages, but certainly useful for checking on points of theory, and interesting in its own right if you like languages for their own sake. I recommend: Modern Welsh: A Comprehensive Grammar, and D. Geraint Lewis’ book of Welsh verbs Y Llyfr Berfau is worth its weight in gold.

You should aim to be exposed to as much Welsh as possible, every day if you can, for example through the MEDIA. That’s not hard if you’re in Wales, where you can can simply nip down to the newsagent’s and pick up one of the many newspapers and magazines in Welsh or your local papur bro (Welsh-language local newspaper). Suitable publications include Prentis (a magazine for learners) and Golwg (informal, everyday Welsh; not for absolute beginners). On the World Wide Web you can read Y Wennol, a magazine for intermediate learners by Bob Evans (sadly now no longer produced).

Or, even if you don’t live in a Welsh-speaking area, just turn on BBC Radio Cymru or Welsh-language television (BBC Cymru or S4C). You can even receive these channels in some places outside Wales, and both S4C and Radio Cymru are now available by satellite throughout the UK on Sky Digital, as indeed is Radio Wales, home of Catchphrase (phone 0870 600 4141 for details).

And whether or not you live in the UK, the Internet will come to your rescue. In just the last year or two, there has been a huge increase in the amount of useful Welsh-language materials on the Internet. Here are some sources of NEWS: Radio Cymru is available live online at, and the BBC now has an online news service called Cymry’r Byd (‘Welshfolk of the World’): see You can read Y Cymro (‘The Welshman’) on the Internet at Even better, there’s a news service aimed specifically at learners called Dyma’r Newyddion (‘Here Is The News’) at And if you have regular access to e-mail, why not join an e-mail list such a WelshLearners (beginners) or WriteWelsh (intermediate), where you can make contact with other learners and if necessary ask for help from those more experienced?

Do you enjoy FICTION? Welsh has a thriving literature, and there are plenty of Welsh readers designed specifically for learners. Some recommendations can be found at [Currently unavailable, Sept 2002]. There is also a vibrant Welsh FILM industry, whose products are available on video with subtitles.

Some excellent advice on how to learn Welsh can be found at the Clwb Malu Cachu site, on the optimistically-named page

WJEC (CBAC) publish a small bilingual booklet called Dysgu Cymraeg: All you need to know about learning Welsh, which can be downloaded as a Word document from the ELWa website here. “This booklet features details of the type of courses available for learners, distance learning courses, and learner resources. It also includes information about qualifications, support for learners in the community and residential courses.” See also the S4C site at, where you can send off for a free taster pack including that same booklet plus a language tape scripted by Acen, information on where you can learn Welsh, magazine for learners and much more! the ELWa (Education and Learning Wales) website at, where you can also download some information on courses.

So much for the summary. For the detail, see the other pages on this site, starting here.

© 1999–2002 Harry Campbell
Last updated: August 2002